“Certainly, we cherish our cultural heritage and the centuries old traditions from which our society derives its identity and resilience. But we also acknowledge that practices that undermine human dignity, retard social progress and bring about unnecessary misery and suffering must not be countenance by a society that appreciates the worth of its people.”
Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings: Addressing the 23rd Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (Beijing +5); June 2000, New York, USA
Former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, is on a mission to empower a generation, one woman at a time. As the founder and President of the 31st December Women’s Movement, a grassroots NGO, Nana Rawlings is a firm believer that women hold the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. For nearly three decades, she has been at the forefront of women empowerment. During her tenure as Ghana’s First Lady (1981 – 2001), Mrs. Rawlings crisscrossed the globe raising a new level of awareness on gender issues in Africa.
Through her skillful ability to achieve concrete, measurable results and convey them on platforms, globally, she gained international prominence as a leading activist for African women. Mobilising more than two million women across Ghana—from small-scale, village level, economic projects to standing for parliamentary elections, the 31st December Women’s Movement became one of Ghana’s earliest and most successful examples of a progressive grassroots women’s movement.
Since its inception in 1982, Mrs. Rawlings became the first wife of an African Head of State or President to use an organisational platform to systematically fight gender inequality and empower millions of women across Ghana and beyond.
Today she is considered one of Africa’s most socially progressive and influential female politicians and is the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Lincoln University (USA) for her achievements towards the economic advancement and empowerment of women internationally. In January 2010, she was elected in a landslide victory as the First Vice-Chairman of Ghana’s ruling party at the time, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), of which her husband, former President Jerry John Rawlings, is the founding father.
Emanating from her seemingly effortless ability to be both a hard line politician and a passionate change agent for the poor, the voiceless and the under-served populations in Africa, her power is not something she wields. It’s something she is. Authentic. Smart. Unpretentious. Forthright. Engaging. There isn’t a prediction or forecast broad enough to encompass her energy, vibrancy and her ability to connect with people of all social levels. Such traits are the by-product of her confidence, wisdom and openness to the inclusion of all people. Her leadership style has served as a pioneering model for improving gender equity, equality and the empowerment of grassroots women in Africa. When purpose aligns itself with the character to serve the greater good, authentic power takes over. Such are the coordinates of where Nana Rawlings stands today.
“Through my work as both an activist and a politician, I strive to demonstrate that it is our continuing responsibility, as African women, to challenge inequality, resist oppression, and question our exclusion from every level of African society. I’ve come to realise that it takes a woman to break the endemic cycle of poverty. This is a task too large and too important to be left alone to the government. So it is up to us, the women of Africa, to bear the responsibility for actions needed to end poverty—first in our homes, then in our communities and, ultimately, throughout our nations, one woman at a time.”